Setting of the Sun

Last weekend, I was driving back to St. Pete from Orlando after spending a lovely time with Timmy. Our situation is still working quite nicely, and after a break from living together (which was SUPER needed), we are now missing each other enough to want to live together again. Which is such a great feeling. Absence and heart and fondness…that saying is so true.

As I was making the almost two-hour trek home, I realized that I had enough time to make it to the Gulf Coast to see the sun set. I don’t always get that chance since the beach is about 20-30 minutes away, which is of course totally doable normally. But I’m usually too tired to get out of the house again once I’m through that front door. And with work being as completely crazy as it has been right before school starts, I haven’t the energy to think about plans beyond my normal work hours.

As I sat on Indian Rocks beach, I fell a little bit more in love with this town I’m calling home. This place seriously rocks my socks off.

Warning: super overload of sunset pictures to commence, thanks to Timmy’s amazing gift that keep on giving–my super duper camera.

i was able to catch a little playing of strangers in the water

i was able to catch a little playing of strangers in the water

an accidental shot which I love

an accidental shot which I love

♥, VB

Frustrated Ramblings

I’ve been a little stressed lately. Not because of my life or work or family or friends or Timmy. None of that has been weighing me down, which I can delight in since that’s really the first time I can say that in a long, long time.

No, the things that have been stressing me out have been beyond my control, in the outside world, in the heads and words of the people that share the surface of the earth with me. People I’d really rather just go somewhere else. Away. Because they just suck.

I’ve always been a rather compassionate person, and the older I get, the more I feel. Feel for others like me, but also completely unlike me, and I think that’s a pretty snazzy quality to have. To be able to feel sympathy and empathy, to understand that I’m so small, that I’m just one of millions and billions, that my emotions are what make me different and special and help me to feel connected.

Maybe it’s because I battled depression for many years, and after trying an antidepressant that left me completely numb and absent and disconnected from life, it’s like those emotional abilities have been doubled or quadrupled in the last few years. It’s overwhelming sometimes to 100% understand the sufferings of others, to know that there are injustices in this world that I can do very little about. Yet I’m glad that I can feel these things, that I’m compassionate enough and dedicated enough to the work that I do so I can make any little type of difference I can.

It’s frustrating to see some injustices finally get attention now, things that common sense tells you have been going on forever, but that people have been content to ignore because it’s easier that way sometimes. Things like gender inequality, sexual assault, sexism, racism, bias, etc. blah, blah, blah. Things that mattered a lot to all of us when we were kids. Things that fired us up when we were still innocent enough to see injustice crystal clear.

What happened to people? When did people enjoy ignorance more than knowledge? When did people forget that suffering is awful? When did people become okay with not helping each other out, even when they would absolutely want someone to help them in their time of need? When did people forget what common sense meant?

How did people forget to feel?

At 31 and with chronic back pain that is totally not getting any better, I think about my future as a mother a lot. Clearly time is ticking away, à la My Cousin Vinny style. Pregnancy will be a harsh thing to put my back through in order to feel a love that’s pretty much indescribable. And Lord knows that Timmy would be an awesome dad.

But do I want to have children? Do I want to prepare a child to live in a world where people don’t care if they are hurting? Where people will dismiss their common sense in order to ignore emotions? A world that will allow anyone to be hurt, sexually, emotionally, physically, and then blame that same person for the pain they received?

The more I read the news, the more nauseated I become. Parents being arrested for allowing their children to become independent beings. Because kids who learn to fear the world and learn no common sense, real-world skills totally grow up to be well-functioning adults who don’t make the world more difficult for the rest of us, right?

People up in arms about sick patients being transferred to their city, patients who are citizens of this country, patients who deserve the best care they can get. Even though these outraged people were taught many, many years ago the basics of biology and disease transmission. People who couldn’t have cared less when the same disease was killing Africans because who cares about black people on another continent, right?

People of all races, genders, ethnicities, and education levels being abused, raped, assaulted, and no one truly getting that the fault lies with their attackers, not the attacked. Because who cares about people being violated as long as it’s not you, right?

I am but am still not used to the fact that the work I do, trying to help people get healthy, to lead healthy lives, mentally, physically, sexually, is so fought against by the very people I’m trying to help. The idea of learning how to prevent bad things is common sense, yet people focus on the tiny details that aren’t based in reality. These same people who forgot science as it was taught to us when we were 10 years old. The same people who hate that life is hard yet continue to make decisions and create environments where the default choices are the bad, unhealthy ones.

I understand that I chose a challenging field. Sex education is not something that everyone accepts as a normal part of understanding life. But it is, and if people listened to that common sense voice SCREAMING in their heads, they’d get that what I’m trying to do is help people NOT sleep with people they don’t like because they think that’s what self-esteem is.

I’m helping people NOT get pregnant when they don’t want to be or can’t afford it or don’t have the necessary skills to help a child grow up responsibly. I’m helping people NOT get sick by transmitting or being infected with dangerous, life-altering diseases that can rob them of a future child or even their life. I’m helping people build intimacy within relationships, I’m helping people gain control of their sexuality and have pride in their sexual decisions. I’m helping people understand that love is NOT violence or violation or harm. I’m helping people. Period.

I have found my calling, I know I am fulfilling my life’s purpose, and that makes me very fortunate. I’m so thankful to be on the path I’m on, and only wish that everyone could feel this way. I also recognize those people in my life who have found their niche and are truly rocking their shit out. My friends who are actors, musicians, activists, writers, motivators, educators, healers — you all inspire me. If you are on your path, I support you. I’m proud of you.

I understand that many people haven’t found their calling in life, their true passion, and are therefore miserable little trolls who want to make life harder for everyone else. It’s true, people who are sad and angry want to make others sad and angry in order to feel less alone. But is it really that hard to want to lift people up? It takes less energy to be a beacon of hope than a Debbie Downer.

For those that aren’t on your path, the energy you expend judging others, hindering progress and education, preventing solutions, we all get that you’ve forgotten what human decency looks and feels like. The world would be better served if you searched for your happy. You would clearly be better served if you found your happy.

Happy people don’t lash out, they don’t wish hurt and harm on others, they don’t idly stand by while others suffer. When you forget basic life lessons, how to treat others, how to practice self-control when you feel negative, how not to judge, you make life harder for yourself. You create the exact type of world that you criticize and insult.

And you frustrate me to no end. Because I can’t fix you. I can’t make you learn. I can’t make you listen nor can I make you open your eyes and your heart. I can’t make you want to care.

Which means that I have to do double the good work in order to balance out your negativity. Which creates resentment within me that I’d rather not have in my life. Which makes me pity you because you aren’t experiencing the full, glorious human range of emotions.

So I beg of my rock star friends: Keep doing you. Because when you do you, you increase the happy on earth. You make me proud and you keep my hopes up that there are other good people in the world.

And so ends my frustrated ramblings. Don’t worry, I’ll be back with more fun times and weekend shenanigans.

I am, after all, dating Timmy. 🙂

♥, VB

 

Crying Through the Om

I’ve been practicing yoga pretty steadily for the last three years for two main reasons: 1) my back is jacked to hell and I needed to find an exercise that strengthened my core without placing unnecessary stress on it, and 2) after reconstructive ankle surgery, my right leg was useless and I needed to rebuild its strength. I like yoga because you have to focus on the present or else you fall out of positions and frustration quickly takes over. You must be in control while also letting go in each pose. It’s very complicated stuff, this yoga.

I remember in college trying to get into yoga with my girlfriends and unfortunately, never succeeded. It was a breathing-centered yoga, and without fail, every class I would hyperventilate and pass out. Wow, that’s a really fun way to pass an hour of your life, let me tell you. So I gave up on yoga.

Until I found athletic yoga that so reminded me of my years as a ballet dancer. The concentration, the ability to improve strength and balance, the competitive side it brings out of me when I see someone more advanced, all while sweating my ass off — it was the perfect combination to hook me in. Over the years, I’ve seen a significant change in my body, in the way it looks, and also how it feels. It’s incredible to feel your body, I mean really feel it, as an adult. It’s totally different than lifting weights or your common cardio.

I know that yoga has restorative properties and can help with stress management, but I’ve never bought into the different breathing, chants, and de-toxifying mumbo jumbo that many instructors spit out like truth. When I hear, “This is really good at helping your liver breathe” I want to hurl the teacher out of the window. My public health brain is always on so don’t try to fool me with your soft, enchanting voice.

I go to yoga to shut my brain off but also to turn it on, to really focus on the pose and nothing but, and to breathe through the discomfort so I can lengthen and stretch. It’s harder than it looks, because you actually have to try to make it challenging. That’s the greatest thing about yoga in my opinion: it’s hard if you want to be harder, but it’s easy when you need it to be. There’s not a lot in life you can control like that.

Lately, things have been rough and amazing. I’ve been dealing with Jake’s loss in my own way, sometimes breaking down, other times laughing at an outfit that would definitely gain his approval (he was a clothes snob, btw). I’ve also been traveling like crazy this past month, in Spain for a week, Baltimore the next week for a conference, then Michigan for a certification program. My car broke down twice, and I’ve been collecting donations for Jake’s son’s college tuition savings plan from our high school class. It’s helped to keep me busy, but has definitely made it harder to process things. Now it’s April, and I look back on March like WTF happened?! Is it really over? We were so looking forward to Spain, and now it’s over. The conference, over. My time in Michigan, done (until October).

How is this ok? For time to move this quickly, and all of the sudden you look up, and it’s been over a month since your friend passed away. A month. I’ve barely had time to keep my head above water, and then a month is gone without me even realizing it.

Last week I got more bad news from an extremely close friend. I won’t say his name because he hasn’t gotten the results back nor am I sure that he has shared this beyond just his close friends, but he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Have you ever had bad news hit you so hard that you don’t even cry? Like, your brain can’t even process the words but it knows it’s bad? After I got the news, I just started to shake uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop it, I just shook, and the shaking didn’t even stop for sleep. I would jolt straight up in bed, shaking, after dreaming about losing another friend. The tears came later, when I left him a voicemail letting him know that I was thinking of him during his surgery, and that I wish I could be there for him and his family.

It’s just one punch after another, and the thought of losing another person, and in particular a person who helped shape who I am today, an individual that I can’t even separate from my adolescence or 20s, is too much for my head and heart to comprehend right now. I’m just trying to get through, hour by hour, but hoping that time doesn’t get away from me like it did last month.

And now we return to yoga. Yesterday, after an extremely invigorating Hot Power class in which I was able to complete yet one more advanced arm balance, we sat after savasana, the corpse pose, at the end of the practice. Savasana was the hardest pose for me to become comfortable with when I first started yoga. It requires you to lie still, and shut your brain off but stay focused. Sound confusing? It is. Letting your brain stay on but not running is the most difficult thing to learn how to do. I mean duh, meditation exists for a reason.

I cried the first time I got into savasana because the silence was the most uncomfortable for me. I couldn’t find a place of peace in it. And that was shameful to me. Why couldn’t I just be silent? What was wrong with me?

Last night, after savasana, we sat up to chant Om 3 times. Here’s what Wikipedia says about Om:

The vibration of “OM” symbolises the manifestation of God in form (“sāguna brahman”). “OM” is the reflection of the absolute reality, it is said to be “Adi Anadi”, without beginning or the end and embracing all that exists.[1] The mantra “OM” is the name of God, the vibration of the Supreme

Depending on the day, I could be okay with joining in and chanting Om with the group. Yesterday was one of those days. I sat, legs crossed, and chanted the first Om.

The vibrations started in my chest, and I immediately choked up. My throat closed up and my eyes filled with tears, and I had zero control. It was like the vibrations were forcing an emotional expression within me. Then the shock of what was happening hit me. What was happening??

The second Om began, and again the vibrations in my chest were almost too much for me. My voice broke, and I couldn’t finish the second Om. I was beginning to panic, in my head, because I wasn’t trying to be emotional. It was just happening. I was able to complete the third Om, only I used a much softer voice to chime in.

Let me remind you, I’m not the person that buys into this yogi divine stuff. I’ve never once given credence to the idea of yoga being a way to connect to the divine, or whatever. I still don’t know if I do, even after that experience.

All I know is that I needed that moment to sit in myself again. I’ve spent so much time the last month doing for others, or traveling, or being somewhere other than super present in myself and the moment, that I forgot what it felt like. To be here, right now, and be okay with being still. And in forgetting that, there came a sadness, a realization that it’s not okay to keep going, day after day, without being still and present. A reminder that life is about controlling and letting go, all at the same time.

Thank you yoga, for being there for me when I need that reminder the most.

♥, VB

One Year Later

Today marks my one year anniversary of moving to Florida for a new life, new job, new future. 6 months ago, things weren’t great. In fact, they totally sucked. Not my job, mind you. My job has kicked ass from the beginning, and this semester promises no different. But everything else was baaaaaaad.

Let’s see, what has changed in these last 6 months? It seems like everything. We’ve swung from one direction to another, and although Timmy and I aren’t fully completely back on track like years past, we are absolutely 100% more committed and more united than we ever could have been without this move. We took a much needed trip that reminded us of the fun we once had together. We had conversations that seemed sometimes like they were on repeat, but they kept us communicating and open with each other. 4 years in, and I see what this person means to me. I want to be a better version of myself now more than ever, thanks to Timmy.

You truly don’t understand what kind of love you’re capable of until you’re tested. And there was test after test after test this year, but the last 6 months seem to have given us a new clarity. We made plans to move forward, separately in order to move us forward together. Does that make sense? I mean, sometimes you have to go on your own path in order to strengthen the partnership. This year, we sacrificed, over-compromised, under-compromised, and now we’ve decided that our best way into the future is to do our own thangs.

We are not breaking up. I repeat, for those that are freaking out or who keep giving us heartfelt lectures on the difficulties of long-distance relationships, we are not breaking up. And please stop. I understand your intentions are nothing but good, but if you truly knew our relationship, you’d understand that we know what is best for us. We are dedicated and still very much in love. And we need this divergent path now for our sanity.

Over the holiday break, I got whooped in the ass by the worst cold I can ever remember having, moved from Lakeland to St. Pete (and not by the movers who no-showed twice!), went home to Atlanta to see family and friends, then started over for the New Year in Orlando. Now that the last 6 months are done, no more weddings, no trips scheduled right now, moving and packing complete, I feel like I can really, truly and completely breathe again.

2014 felt like the restart button for us, in more ways than one. We attended a fancy James Bond-themed party with a no-drama, high-fun crowd and ate our 12 grapes in the last 12 seconds of 2013. A Spanish tradition that my family keeps alive, even when we’re not together, it’s a must-do for me. Timmy and I sneaked our grapes in, and couldn’t stop laughing as we shoveled them in, hoping to get them all down for good luck in 2014.

I cannot be more excited for this year, since professionally I keep kicking ass, and now hopefully the personal side will be better than ever.

This year, I didn’t make any resolutions. I haven’t made any resolutions in years. Everything I’ve ever wanted to improve upon, I work on daily. Sometimes minute by minute, like my patience. I was accepted into a sexual health program that I’ve been wanting to apply to for years now. This year, I’m going to continue to check things off my life list, just like I did last year, and the year before that. If I’m not constantly improving myself, I ain’t happy.

For 2014, now that I have a FIFTEEN MINUTE COMMUTE (omg, I can’t believe I can say that), I feel like, finally, the year of never-ending hardship is coming to a close. Timmy is dedicated to improving himself and working on the issues he feels are important, and I’m going to work on being a better partner by being a better me. Sounds like a plan we can definitely both achieve.

And we must be getting somewhere because just this past weekend, at dinner at our fave restaurant in Winter Park, Timmy looked at me and said, “Your attitude has changed so much since you moved, for the better. And it’s only been like a week!”

Ain’t that the truth.

2014

♥, VB

Why I Believe in the Power of Prayer

STAY WITH ME! Don’t leave! I promise this isn’t a Jesus-saved-me-so-now-life-is-amazing story.

If you thought it was and that’s why you’re here, please don’t leave either! I promise this is a good story.

I didn’t always pray. In fact, who needs prayer when you can make.shit.happen. Prayer just seemed like a moment that was taken up by more thoughts, more talk, when I just wanted quiet.

I turned 15, and everything changed. I had a situation that shook my whole family, and from that day on, I believed something. Let me clarify that: I believed in something. Something larger than myself and to this day, I believe with all my heart that something kept me here when it could’ve taken me away. I was supposed to be here.

But why? For what reason did I live? What was I supposed to do with my life if my life was meaningful enough to save?

That’s when I started to pray. Not for answers, but for guidance. I prayed every night that God would help me find my path. And not only help me find my path, but keep me on it. To help me not be swayed from what I was meant to do in my lifetime. To keep me going forward.

I prayed those same words for YEARS. When things got crazy in my life, when I was partnered with the wrong people, when I was off doing nutso things, when I was off balance, I prayed the same words.

I did realize over a few years that I have to do some of the work myself. DUH. And so I did. I researched my job path, talked to people who held the jobs I wanted, and figured out for myself how to get where I needed to go.

Others helped FOR SURE. My parents paid for all of my education, so without them, I’d be a sad sack of debt. I was able to work flexible jobs during my education that helped me pay for this and that. And I didn’t really ever flounder because my foundation of friends and family was so solid. I graduated with my MPH from Emory and was moving on up.

Then the economy tanked.

My jobs went away, the path that I KNEW I was supposed to be on disappeared beneath my feet. And so I went back to prayer. Went back to the same words I had been praying for years. Help me find my path and help keep me on it.

I got jobs that I HATED. HATED with a fiery passion. FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE kind of hate (Clue? Anyone? Best movie ever).

But I kept praying. And I kept trying to learn as much as I could, in case I would need it later. Always keeping my options open, but with a narrow focus on the end goal. So narrow, in fact, it drove my parents crazy! They kept wanting something else for me, but I was sure that I was doing what I needed to do to get to where I wanted to go.

And then, THREE AND A HALF YEARS LATER, opportunities started to open up, and I took full advantage. Every night, I said those words in a prayer, and every night I believed that I would be helped. Now, in St. Pete, I believe with all my heart that it’s because of my faith that I got where I needed to be and had the strength of character to make it happen.

Every opportunity I didn’t get for all those years of praying are falling into my lap left and right here. When it rains, it hurricanes right? (A little FL humor for you.) And I’m taking advantage of everything that I can. I would be stupid not to. I mean, hello, THIS IS WHAT I PRAYED FOR. It wasn’t overnight, it wasn’t the next night, but it happened.

Not only did I ask for guidance and support, I also made it happen. You can never get what you want if you don’t go for it. Period.

So I guess you’re wondering why I decided to write an entire post about prayer. You already know that I feel fortunate as F*%K, that I’m blessed beyond belief. You know why we moved down here. You know all this. Why talk about it now?

Because prayer also helped Timmy & me happen.

If you know me, you know that I’m a strong, independent, fiery, dancing machine. No one really ever gets in my way, and I get what I want when I want it. I don’t really care what others think of me because I never stop long enough to think about what others may think of me in the first place. And I’m also the most impatient person you’ve ever met.

Like seriously, it’s a problem.

I’ve been this way my entire life, I kid you not. I could never last an entire game of Monopoly (I think I only played the entire game once), I can’t stand when people or events take longer than I want, I hate waiting in line, I hate crowds, my God forsaken commute, I hate anything that sets me off my schedule.

So as you can tell, I spend a lot of time frustrated and pissed at things outside of my control.

So it occurred to me, around the same time that I figured out how to ask for guidance on my career path, that I could also ask for help getting patience. It couldn’t hurt, right? Besides, isn’t that God’s thing, being patient and all that?

And so I prayed for patience too. I prayed every night, “Please give me patience.” I prayed and asked for help in being patient.

After probably 6 years of praying for patience, I wasn’t noticing any difference in my ability to be patient. No progress. None. Nada. Zip. And to be honest, I wasn’t really trying. I didn’t know how to be any other way.

Then Timmy came into my life. This huge personality of fun, laughter, kindness, reliability, and genuine friendship wanted to be with me. Forever. And I also wanted to be with him forever. He was the partner I’d been wishing for my entire life.

Everything was perfect the first year or so. I mean, isn’t it always? I’d been in relationships before, so I knew the honeymoon phase was going to be coming to a close soon. Oh snap, did it ever.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog, Timmy is not exactly what I’d call a good time manager. In fact, he’s terrible at it. He’s constantly late, which in turn, makes us late to everything. He has no system, he has no schedule, he has no mindset that’s similar to mine.

With a fiery vengeance, my patience evaporated. I found myself unable to control my anger, exploding all the time, because I had no patience. I still prayed for it, but I couldn’t find it anywhere.

And then, I realized it. The glaring fact that had been staring me in the face for almost 4 years. How I didn’t see this until a few months ago, I have no idea. I was blind to it until I just decided to open my eyes.

God paired me, someone with minor OCD, with Timmy, who has ADHD.

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor, right?

Now that I can finally see how God answered my prayer, I have to laugh about it.  I mean, duh, of course God would give me someone who has a total inability to focus and fully concentrate for long periods of time. HOW ELSE WOULD I BE ABLE TO PRACTICE BEING PATIENT?!?!

I’ve realized that it wasn’t about God just handing me a package with PATIENCE written on the label. I have to practice, every day, being patient. It won’t come any other way. In fact, I was on Pinterest the other day and found this:

Image

Honestly, I have no idea if that’s from Joyce Meyer or not. The quote itself struck me in a way that I’ve never been struck by anything online. It was like the story of my life’s struggle, in 15 words or less. I’ve been repeating this in my head daily now, not only as a reminder of what patience is but also as a reminder that God did answer my prayer. Just not in the way I expected.

Timmy is God’s gift of patience to me. And I thank God every day for that because otherwise, without my prayer, we may never have found a reason to be together forever. We probably would’ve just passed each other, high fived, and moved on.

Prayer is important for many reasons, but I believe it’s a way to challenge yourself and boil down your deepest desires to the simplest form. If I had asked God to just give me a cool job without asking him to put me on a path, I would’ve ended up bored and languishing in a dead end position. If I had asked for a fun partner who always makes me laugh, I never would’ve had the opportunities that I do with Timmy to constantly better myself.

Hard work and prayer go hand in hand. Timmy and I are meant to be, sure, but we have to work and work and work at making sure we stay meant to be.

Don’t pray for wishes and long shots. Pray for the opportunity to show that you can do something. Pray for that window where you can see hope. Pray for the time that you can rise to occasion. And when those moments happen, ACT.

That’s my story folks. And I’m sticking to it.

♥, VB